My twin daughters are 8, and in the second grade. Yesterday, a child in their after-school program decided that one of the girls had a ball he wanted to play with (or some other playground drama) and grabbed her in a bear-hug and squeezed until she couldn’t breathe.
I saw this child for the first time today and, no exaggeration; he probably weighs three times what my daughter does. He could have seriously hurt her.
She grabbed the skin on his belly, and twisted until he fell to the ground crying in pain. Good girl. In jujutsu, we refer to that as a “pain compliance” technique. It hurts like hell, but is very unlikely to injure the other person.
Fortunately, a teacher saw what happened, and the boy got into trouble.
After incident debrief
My wife and I talk a lot with the kids, always have.
Yesterday, we had a long discussion, including both girls, about why my daughter’s actions were OK. I explained that I didn’t want her to hurt anyone, but that if somebody was trying to hurt her and she couldn’t get away – she should do what she needed to in order get away.
We discussed the difference between self-defense and retaliation.
I gave her some pointers about other locations on the body where pinching and skin grabbing works like a charm. I’m going to make it a point to drag the girls to self-defense classes and even have them train with adults.
As a parent of girls, one of my most important commitments to my children is to raise them to be responsible, and in control of their bodies. They are assertive, and they advocate for themselves. They are nice girls, but they don’t take guff. I am not raising them to be anybody’s victim.
The martial artist’s paradox
Though I have studied combative martial arts for decades, I am absolutely dedicated to peaceful conflict resolution. However, there are times when pacifism is not an option (like when somebody is squeezing the life out of you and you are afraid you’re going to be injured).
I used to train Arnis, a martial art from the Philippines, with a wonderful man named Guro Grande (great teacher) George Brewster. Mr. Brewster was a WWII vet who had fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and who had help liberate a Nazi concentration camp. In his 80’s. he disarmed a teenager who attacked him with a crowbar. He was a warrior in the true sense of the word.
Mr. Brewster, besides being tough-as-nails, and highly skilled, was also a generous, kind, even loving father figure to all those who trained with him.
I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from him:
“If everyone were trained to defend themselves maybe some of the bullies of the world would think twice about aggression ….. And so, the training must go on.”